I don’t know about you, but my dry skin sure remembers the sub-freezing temperatures of February. I also remember running daily from the metro to my apartment… because I’d be warmer that way. And I remember cursing the false spring with its light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel moments of heat followed by harsh wintery reprises.
So when summer did finally arrive, the whole city rejoiced. We stormed the parks (and the liquor stores) and settled in for entire afternoons in the sunshine (whether the rain, wind or thunder and lightning came or not).
Summer owed us, and damned if we weren’t going to play frisbee.
But the thing is, we were tired. That winter was emotionally draining. And park-ing (verb = to park; definition: to go to a park and stay there for awhile; does not mean: to park a car) and picnic-ing (verb = to picnic) should be low-stress things.
Why should I spend hours marinating meat, chicken, fish or tempeh and lugging a portable BBQ and cooler up to Parc Jeanne-Mance, Laurier, the Canal or Lafontaine? Making a salad sounded complicated and heavy. I’m gluten intolerant, so bread and hummus are out. And I’m a big believer in washing fruit (e.coli being not delicious), so I’m not swinging by the grocery store on the way for grapes.
Bananas or other peelable fruit? Not picnic fare.
So when Foodora approached me about writing an article about lazy picnicing and offered a $30 voucher, I thought that was an interesting idea I even had a picnic coming up. Their pitch was that a bunch of Montreal restaurants near the major MTL parks have a pick-up option. I could place my order and grab the food on the way to the picnic. Some even have special picnic tabs on their menu with suggestions like caprese salad, smoothies and chicken wings. Or you can design your own picnic by ordering Pops Art popsicles to the Lachine Canal; burritos, tacos and tortas galore from a handful of places east and north of Jeanne-Mance; or gluten free marinated shiitake mushroom General Tau from Copper Branch to the park of your choice (they’re everywhere, it seems).
But what didn’t make sense to me was why I’d use a delivery service to pick up when I could just order the food directly to the park. You just enter your current location as the delivery address. So I went to my picnic. Enjoyed the sunshine. Enjoyed the company. And when I started to get hungry, I opened the Foodora app and checked out my options around Jeanne-Mance Park.
There were lots. La Chilenita, Taqueria Arturo, Copper Branch, La Panthère Verte, Philinos, Thazard. I was sort of craving Portuguese grilled sardines and potatoes. But that might be weird at a picnic, right? I love the tinga and fish tacos from Taqueria Arturo, but they’re not so shareable either. Some of the Mexican places had nachos, which would be great picnic fare, except I can’t eat cheese.
The other mitigating factor was that the minimum delivery time was 25 minutes minimum. Most restaurants were 35 and would be coming from as far away as the Guy/Concordia area and the Old Port. It was St-Jean-Baptiste Day and a lot of places were closed, even though that’s a prime picnic-ing day.
Maybe Foodora as a picnic option is best on non-holidays, I thought. So I decided to hold onto my voucher for another time. I’d also just spent 20 minutes being anti-social while looking through menus on my phone. Time to be a real person again.
So the next day, I planned a lunchtime work picnic in a sunny square in the Old Port. I wanted poke (raw or marinated fish or seafood on rice with a bunch of sushi-like toppings – think a chirashi bowl or deconstructed sushi with a sauce on top) and spent 10 minutes choosing the perfect custom bowl only to find out at the checkout that the restaurant didn’t deliver.
Then I thought maybe Indian Tandoori lamb. But that sounded like the polar opposite of a refreshing poke bowl.
In the end I went with preservative-free, antibiotic-free rotisserie chicken from Campo. That’s sort of picnic-y, right? It’s Ferreira restaurant’s casual little brother, so I knew it’d be good quality and probably pretty tasty.
It took 30 minutes, but it came on time, was warm and nothing was missing from the order. The chicken skin wasn’t crispy, but a delivery bag can’t do miracles. If you want it fresher, pick it up yourself.
The fries were impressively hot, though, for coming in an open-topped paper bag. And even the kombucha I ordered was a cool temperature despite the transit. This was not the pizza delivery of my youth, thank goodness.
The only problem was when I checked out, I wanted to use the rest of my voucher to pre-tip the delivery guy. And I thought I’d gotten it right because I’d pressed the 15% box on the Foodora app (there are options and a custom box). Except once the guy had left and I checked my receipt, there was no tip on it! I felt so bad. I don’t know what happened because the tip had changed the total the first time I tried it and then when I changed the percentage to see how high I could get it without busting my voucher, it stopped changing, so I figured it was all working fine (because as long as the total cost still read $0, I was fine).
I guess this isn’t a problem for most people (voucher-less people), but it’s something the company and app developers could check. The only other user experience problem I found was that I couldn’t save orders from different restaurants. I wanted to compare the totals and value of a couple different options before deciding, but your previous order is canceled when you save something from somewhere new to your cart. It had taken awhile to enter the custom poke bowl options (base, protein, add-ins, extras, sauce plus special instructions, e.g. no mayo or sauce on the side) and it was frustrating to have to redo that each time I decided to go back to poke instead of Portuguese or Indian. There should definitely be a comparison shop option. Did I miss it?
All in all, I think Foodora is a pretty good service if you hunt for the more affordable restaurants. Why would I use it in the Old Port when I could just walk somewhere, though? You can save yourself a fairly hefty delivery charge on lunch. That is, if I was already planning on leaving the office (and if you’re only ordering for yourself rather than a larger group – though, again, you’d have to all order from the same restaurant and on the same bill).
Besides, in winter, that’s a different story. Come December, I’ll be ordering that tandoori lamb or rotisserie chicken and settling in with some office-kitchen chai.
For now, bring on the park-ing and the picnic-ing.